From a low approach down Cape Canaveral’s runway to flying through the Smoky Mountains, the Beechcraft Bonanza has taken Clifford Staley on a world of adventures.
One summer, the Boca Raton, Florida, pilot enjoyed one of his favorite journeys in his aircraft — two weeks with his wife, Hong, visiting friends and family, indulging in beloved pastimes and exploring the countryside.
Beginning in sunny southeast Florida at their base airport in Boca Raton (KBCT), the couple covered 2,550 nautical miles over 14 days. First, they hopped up the East Coast, with stops in South Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey and New York. One stop was especially memorable.
“My wife had never seen Niagara Falls. I had been there only once when the U.S. side was closed to remove debris. Skirting along Lake Ontario was humbling,” said Staley.
For the next leg of their trip, the couple decided to forgo the comfort of hotels for the serenity of West Virginia’s natural beauty. They camped near the Plum Orchard Creek in Fayette County and did some light spelunking in Lost World Caverns.
“I had never seen a cave before, but my wife had been to several,” he said. “I was surprised how cold and damp it became as we got deeper and deeper into the cave. Being an engineer I was always thinking, ‘What if an earthquake happens while we are here? What if one of the big stalactites falls on us?’”
The Staleys, safely under the Mountain State’s sky once more, kept the adrenaline running with a whitewater rafting trip down the New River Gorge.
“Forget paddling. I was hanging on to the rope the whole trip while my wife bravely locked her feet under the seat and paddled away. The views were beautiful with the New River Bridge being something special,” Staley said.
After several days sightseeing, then a few more experiencing nature, the couple decided to experience a third kind of vacation closer to home — a day of shopping in St. Augustine.
“Summertime in Florida is void of snowbirds, and we locals like to take advantage of retailers needing to move merchandise in the summer. I assured my wife that the plane could handle a ‘few hundred’ more pounds of shoes,” Staley said, laughing.
“On a trip loaded with golfing, camping, rafting, fishing, dining, wine tasting and shopping, we took everything we needed and brought home even more. Got to love the cargo space!”
“It was a marathon, many different cities, new airports and lots of fun,” he said. “The Beech was outstanding. I’ve always felt confident in its stability and performance.”
Since that trip, Staley has continued to add incredible moments to his logbook, including landing on the same runway the space shuttles used. He’s also taken some other memorable trips in his aircraft.
“We’ve been on a few more wonderful journeys, taking the Bonanza to New York again, north to the Smoky Mountains, west to Las Vegas, and on many local trips to places like New Orleans and Key West,” Staley said. “Just last week, we headed down to Marathon, Florida, for the annual seafood festival.”
This story was originally published on TxtAv.com/en/Journey.